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Old 01-03-2023, 06:20 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Older 4x4 AND crew cab small/mid size trucks: Colorado/Canyon, Frontier, etc? realistic mpg's/options..

I'm downsizing my business and don't plan to tow heavy trailers any more for work, so.... Hoping to go from full size 350/3500 diesel work truck/s to something like older Chevy Colorado/Canyon, Nissan Frontier, or Toyota/(ranger?) ex cabs (probably not Tacoma 4-door double/crew cabs due to inflated used buy-in cost). Since I know folks will probably ask - We really do need & use a pickup bed, even a wimpy short bed 4.5-6ft is a better option than a van or wagon or car pulling a trailer for my purposes.

I always drive with a soft foot and frequently apply some degree of mild to medium hypermiling techniques when applicable, but half the time I'm trying/have to keep up with suburb freeway traffic at 65mph minimum speed (75mph average speed of most drivers)- so I have to keep my mpg expectations realistic.

I'm mainly looking at the 2000-2007 range, and always prefer older vehicles as I do my own maintenance/repairs, but might be able to stretch the budget for a steal of a deal on trucks upto 2012-2015 if 'newer' really made sense. I can't afford or justify any of the uncommon "1500" size diesel pickups that have shown up in the last 5-7 years.

I know ALL the arguments against 4x4 are solid (weight, extra rolling resistance in some cases, &why not 2wd with locker?/etc) but 4wd is worth the...let's say upto ~2-3mpg hit... for me... living in snow country, plus being able to put it in 4L and crawl out of being stuck is a "comfort" I've gotten used to/ not willing to give up. I've grown accustomed to crew cabs as well, so strongly lean towards 4 full doors for the family, tools, and workers.

I understand diesel has slightly more available btu's per gallon than e10 gas but still.... 4-5000lbs vs 7-8500lbs scale curb weight, for example, should make more of a difference. I really wish there was a convincing argument to downsize to smaller "work" pickups.

The problem is my already optimized 1 ton diesel trucks get just as good "real world" , and "on paper" mpg's as what I'm seeing for anything out there in the small/mid size range. I'm not talking inflated #'s you see all the time online. I've owned all of the pre-emissions "big" diesel truck options over the last 20 years, almost always in crew/4wd, and often push 25mpg mixed tank averages with dodge cummins or 20-22mpg with ford 7.3's .. Examples:
87-03 ford 7.3, crew, 4x4 manual, 3.73 = 17/20mpg (avg real city/highway)
89-93 dodge 5.9 ex cab 4x4 manual 3.54 19/23mpg
94-06 Dodge 5.9 quad/crew, 4x4 manual 18/22mpg
6.2 & 6.5 Chevy 16-24ish (that's been quite a few years)

"On paper" (fueleconomy dot gov & similar resources), below is the list of the most promising "smaller" truck options I can find: *Keep in mind these are ALL 4wd*

2004-~2007 Chevy Colorado/(GMC Canyon), crew, 4cyl, Manual 17/22 **but I find very very few crew w/ 4cyl, and even fewer with manual trans
04-~07 Colorado 4cyl auto crew 16/21 **still rare to find 4cyl 4x4 crew auto
04-~07ish Colorado manual 5cyl 16/21
2015 Chevy Colorado 4cyl auto or manual 19/24

~01-06ish Nissan Frontier crew 6cyl manual 15/19
2015 16/21 6cyl auto

~ 2003ish Toyota Tacoma crew auto 6cyl 15/18 (manual & 4cyl NOT available)
~95-2009ish Toyota Tacoma EX cab, 4cyl, 5spd 17/21
2012 4cyl 5spd ex cab 18/20

pre-1996 Ford Ranger EX cab, 4cyl, 5spd 18/23
1997+ Ranger EX cab, 6cyl, 5spd 16/19

I don't think any dakotas make the list and ~2001-2004 s10 crew cabs are all 6cyl so didn't seem like they would be worth looking into either. Rangers I haven't really checked out much, as, again I want crew cab not extended cab, and you have to go pretty far back to find the 4cyl 4x4.

Just in case... are there any significantly above average mpg OLDER 1500/f150 trucks?

My dream is the Nissan pre 1997 double cab import (from asia, sd25, td27/etc) but that's not what this thread is about. I'm not willing to go transit/sprinter (big fan of old 02-06 Sprinter but this thread is about 4wd options specifically), nor am I looking at mini vans (Another rig I've tried, Astro AWD 1995-2005 gets 16/18mpg, quite hard to even push 20 btw). I do love odballs and would, for fun... look at worldwide import options in Europe, Asia, S. America, etc.. ("utes" are awesome)- anything pre 1998 could perhaps be do-able per the usa 25 year import rules.


I've searched and read all I can here and elsewhere, and started the hunt to see what pops up for sale locally. I'd greatly appreciate ANY thoughts, experiences, or input...especially on what's achievable at highway speed with the 4cyl & 5cyl "older" Colorados, and perhaps 6cyl Frontier of any year..or any others.... thanks in advance!


Last edited by new_bug; 01-03-2023 at 06:56 AM..
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Old 01-03-2023, 01:39 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I do love odballs and would, for fun... look at worldwide import options in Europe, Asia, S. America, etc.


This is the ultimate in utility. Unfortunately we're all priced out of the market. But here you have 5-6 passengers, a short bed and lockable trunk in one vehicle. My panel van got 30MPG and cruised at 75 on I-5.
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Old 01-03-2023, 05:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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'what's achievable'

I got the '94 Toyota T-100, from mid-twenties to up to 39.9-mpg at 60-65-mph, strictly with aero. Four-banger, manual 5-speed, 2WD.
It's just a crude proof on concept.
Only you would know your limits on 'practicality.'
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Old 01-06-2023, 07:32 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Since you mentioned it, I did find something along those lines, an "updated" version, (T5) Eurovan 3-door doka, (2wd 1.9l td / aaz?) listed on fb marketplace in lebanon OR, I have it in my bookmarks "just for fun" ..not really seriously considering it... almost seems semi reasonable @ $9k, for someone on the west coast usa. I liked everything up through vanagons, never have gone the eurovan route yet. I guess I'm imagining lower to the ground 'mini' trucks, anything resembling, for example 80's datsuns /720, etc as more ideal at this point in time.

Newbie so I can't post links or pictures yet,, eurovan double cab:
facebook dot com/marketplace/item/650871540150692
Quote:
This is the ultimate in utility. Unfortunately we're all priced out of the market. But here you have 5-6 passengers, a short bed and lockable trunk in one vehicle. My panel van got 30MPG and cruised at 75 on I-5.
Also - Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement Aerohead, I've read through many of your posts. I need an open bed about half the time but will be scratching my head and digging further into the concept of any retractable/fabric/softtop canopy type options that are shaped in a way that might reduce drag.
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Old 01-06-2023, 08:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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....80's datsuns /720, etc as more ideal at this point in time.


I'd consider something like this. It's a hybrid of a Camper World race truck spoiler and the GM half-tonneau. I talked to the manager and he knew it got better mileage, but not by how much.

The one change I would make is to chamfer or bevel the ends. On a stanced mini-truck the front half of the bed would be accessible.
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Old 01-06-2023, 08:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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How far is a typical trip, and how many miles per year?

Financially, seems best to stick with what you've already got, since you already know what condition they are in.

You'll take a hit if selling/buying retail. Then there's all the unknowns of the "new" used vehicles.
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Old 01-18-2023, 01:28 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you all. It's not only a financial consideration, more just "downsizing" - I will still have access to 1 ton or larger work trucks if needed, and the smaller work runabout trucks will be cheaper to run & keep on the road going forward, overall.

About 3/4 the usage will be short trips 1-4miles barely enough to warm up, and the remaining longer freeway avg~ 40-120 miles

The frontrunners in this category of older crew cab so far; (thinking I'll probably end up giving up 4x4 in favor of a more common 2wd 5spd 4cyl - otherwise I'd be looking forever for a unicorn, or doing a transmission/engine swap)

-Nissan frontier (2wd) 5spd 4cyl from around 1999+ and the
-GM Colorado/Canyon ~2005+ 5spd 4cyl (4x4 or 2wd)
From what I can find so far, curb weight starts very roughly around 36xx for the lightest configuration listed on both

I like toyota as much as anybody but hard to justify the inflated buy in cost for older tacomas, plus just don't want one of their 6cyl , unimpressed (mpg & reliability) with a 6cyl ex cab toyota in the past
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Old 01-18-2023, 11:26 AM   #8 (permalink)
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My experience with vehicles that old is that I buy one, a day later the check engine light shows up and starts flashing, and turns out I need a new engine, transmission, brakes, and everything else, and I can't get parts for them that last more than a month or two.

I usually go for way older vehicles, something that costs next to nothing and is cheaper to repair. These vehicles have also "proven themselves" to a certain degree meaning that if they made it this far they probably can keep going for many more years with a little TLC. You can probably purchace and rebuild the engine and transmission on a 40 year-old vehicle for the price of a 20 year-old vehcile that needs a rebuilt engine and transmission.

Or I'd go for something a few years old with low mileage, except with vehicles that are a few years old there's the problem right now of high prices, prices so high you might as well as get a new one.

Unless you're doing 2,000 miles a month or more, I'd stick with the big truck you already have.

Reminds me of a friend who had a 10 cylinder pickup, he traded it for an 8 cylinder pickup and got the same fuel mileage. He then traded that for a 6 cylinder and still got the same fuel mileage.

If you want good fuel mileage in a 4x4 pickup you'd have to do some drastic mods. Or get a little diesel one (or an EV if you can afford one).

For the money, if I were looking for a great fuel mileage truck, I'd try to get a brand new Ford Maverick hybrid. Yes, they cost over $20,000 and have something like a two year waiting list. (I'm also not sure if the hybrid comes in AWD.)

But from there I wouldn't consider anything else, except maybe a Chevy Colorado (GMC Canyon) 4 cylinder diesel. But expect to pay $20,000 for one with 150,000 miles on it.

From there I would go back to a 1980's pickup. The VW non-turbo diesel pickup would be my first choice as I owned a 1985 VW Golf non-turbo diesel. The thing was gutless as all getout, but it got as much as 60mpg on long trips. It is also immortal and just won't die, but just keeps going. But those pickups are FWD and do not have a crew cab.
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Old 01-18-2023, 01:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Graft a Rabbit pickup bed onto a Golf two- or four-door? With a Type III engine under the bed?
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Old 01-19-2023, 12:34 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by new_bug View Post
-Nissan frontier (2wd) 5spd 4cyl from around 1999+ and the
The 2001 Frontier I had supposedly weighed a little less than 3200 lbs. It was a 2.4L 5 speed with an extended cab. I usually got 28-31 mpg. It was regularly getting 30mpg until I had two used tires put on the front. My mileage then dropped to 28mpg. No matter how much I tried I couldnīt get 30 mpg with those tires.

The Frontier taught me that I never want another extended cab. The extra weight wasnīt worth it. My 1991 base model Toyota Pickup is a much more efficient truck for getting actual work done.

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